Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Smith, 24 June 1802

To Samuel Smith

Washington June 24. 1802.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 21st. was recieved last night. we had had letters from Genl. Wilkinson on the same subject of the office of Surveyor of the Missisipi territory. but there exists no such office: and the Executive cannot create such a one. this answer has been given to Wilkinson. when the Georgia convention shall be ratified by them, and a land office open a surveyor will be wanting. but candour obliges me to say that mr Dunbar a man of the first science in the US. without exception, an antient inhabitant there, has the first title to it, and that it would be a great abuse of the power of appointment not to give him the refusal. he is rich & probably would not accept of it. Genl. Wilkinson is so well apprized of mr Dunbar’s superior qualification for it that he acknoleges it in his letter but says Dunbar is going to Europe in the Spring. we are throwing into Wilkinson’s way every accidental emploiment that turns up in order to help him along. how far, in any case, it would be expedient, if the French come to New Orleans, for us to plant a person against them whose interest it would be to bring on a war, will deserve consideration. that war with France some day or other will ensue that measure, is probable. but that it is better it should be kept off till some demelé with England should give us the aid of her superiority on the ocean, seems certain. Accept assurances of my great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “Genl. Saml. Smith.”

James Wilkinson wrote several LETTERS to Henry Dearborn during the spring. In one, on 30 May, he said that his position in the army “draws down on my best Friends much obloquy & abuse.” Explaining his willingness to give up active military service if necessary to be the surveyor general of Mississippi Territory, Wilkinson noted “the privations of domestic Happiness” and his “solicitudes for an helpless Family.” Dearborn’s ANSWER was dated 2 June. “It is considered as doubtful whether we ought to preambulate the line between the Mississippi Territory and the Choctaw Nation,” Dearborn informed the general, unless the Choctaws “will agree to the line formerly settled between them and the British Government.” It was “the wish of the President” that Wilkinson should talk to the Choctaws and “endeavor by all the fair means in your power to induce them to consent to the establishing of the said line, on receiving from the Government of the U. States a reasonable consideration in money.” If the Choctaws showed “a disposition to listen to any such propositions,” Dearborn went on, Wilkinson should determine “the lowest sum they will consent to receive” and find out “the principal points of the line.” Wilkinson was to inform the government of the results of those discussions but “consider the running and marking the line as suspended until the Government shall have decided on the subject, which cannot take place earlier than next winter” (Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934–75, 28 vols. description ends , 5:151–4).

GEORGIA CONVENTION: the “Articles of Agreement and Cession” signed by U.S. and Georgia commissioners in April was to go into effect once the Georgia legislature approved the boundaries of the state’s cession of lands. The legislature RATIFIED the arrangement by an act passed on 16 June (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Public Lands, 1:126; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962–, 32 vols. Sec. of State Ser., 1986–, 8 vols. Pres. Ser., 1984–, 6 vols. Ret. Ser., 2009–, 1 vol. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 3:321; TJ to the Senate and the House of Representatives, 26 Apr.).

In his letter of 30 May, Wilkinson conceded that William DUNBAR was “doubtless the person best qualified” to be surveyor for the territory. According to Wilkinson, Dunbar, with the intention of going to Europe, had “refused any appointment from Govr Claiborne” (Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934–75, 28 vols. description ends , 5:152).

SOME DEMELÉ WITH ENGLAND: that is, a quarrel (démêlé in French) between France and Britain.

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